Friday, December 9, 2011

New thing #10: Weihnachtsmarkt

Several people had told me that if I got the chance I should visit a Weihnachtsmarkt - a traditional German Christmas Market. So before flying home from Germany, I tagged along to the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt with my friend Jens, his mom and stepdad.

The Christmas market takes place on the main square in the heart of the old town. We took the train there on a cold, wet night and joined the crowds walking towards the symbolic Nuremberg Christmas Angel with her white and gold dress and golden crown. Along the way we passed outdoor stands selling fruit, sweets and and cups of hot Glühwein (spiced mulled wine). We also passed several street musicians, including two different Santas playing accordions. One had a little dog with him, dressed in a matching Santa suit. Once we entered the square we were able to watch the artesians at work, crafting and selling handmade ornaments of glass and wood, weird little dried-plum figurines, all sizes of Nutcrackers and clever little smokers. I made room in my suitcase for one of these funky little incense burners!

My Smoker!
We also sampled the food - Stollen, a bread studded with rum-soaked dried fruit; Lebkuchen, a type of gingerbread which has a communion wafer stuck to the bottom for some reason; all types of spiced nuts; macaroons the size of your hand; and really delicious Nuremberg Bratwurst, which is three little grilled sausages on a hearty roll - so good! We didn't get a chance to try the Feuerzangenbowle, a huge kettle of hot spiced wine with a tong across the top. They soak a big hunk of sugar in rum, place it on the tong and set it on fire. As it burns, the rum-soaked sugar drips into the wine. It looks really cool, but the line was huge and the area so crowded you could barely move. We settled for some Glühwein, which did wonders to keep the cold away while hot, but tasted kind of gross after it cooled off. I'm not a big fan of sweet wine.

We took a short detour on the way back to the train station to stroll through the Handwerkerhof ("Crafts Yard"). This cool little area, surrounded by the towers and walls of the medieval city fortification, is where craftsmen have set up workshops in little houses. We saw wax artists, bag-makers, potters, silversmiths, glass painters, doll makers and more - and every one of them was closed for the evening. Just one more reason to make a return visit to this great city!

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